THORPE Hall cadet Ashley Croft has been selected for a national training programme aimed at turning promising youngsters into tour professionals.

The 12-year-old has earned a place on the English Women’s Golf Association’s (EWGA) Birdies squad.

The youngster has been a member at Thorpe Hall since she was eight years old and currently plays off of a 12-handicap.

Linda Bayman, performance director at the EWGA, said it could be the start of a successful career for Ashley.

She said: “This is the first step on a pathway to the professional ranks.

“Each year we take in about 35 girls in Ashley’s age group.

“They don’t all make it, but we only take on those who we think have a chance.

“Ashley was selected after we watched her in junior competitions, and then she came in for some tests.

“And now she is the right place to progress into a top pro golfer.”

Ashley is the first Thopre Hall cadet to be called up for the training programme, which places emphasis on technical instruction and physical preparation in a fun and competitive environment.

She is also the only youngster from Essex to be selected for the Birdies’ Year One squad, which will is based at Burr Hill Golf Club in Weybridge, and will meet six times before July.

The squad will remain together for the first two years of the programme and will be trained by some of the country’s best coaches.

Thorpe Hall spokesman David Leslie said: “Both her parents have given her a great deal of support, and they are rightly very proud of her.

“She is quite quiet but she’s very determined, and she’s done incredibly well to earn this call-up.”